BOSTON — He and coach Brad Stevens shared an embrace at half court prior to him checking in during the first half. A fan in attendance held up a ‘NBA Live 2004′ video game where he was featured on the cover. And Celtics’ 21-year-old superstar Jayson Tatum collected the last jersey he would wear inside the TD Garden.
The presence of Vince Carter was enjoyed by everyone in attendance as the Celtics hosted the 22-year NBA veteran and one of the eight franchises he’s played for, as the C’s earned a 112-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
All those representing The Green, however, had a great deal of praise for Carter following the game.
“I mean, it’s surreal. I’m 20,” Romeo Langford said with a smile when he was asked about going against the 43-year-old Carter.
“I would have never thought I was playing against Vince Carter,” Langford said. “I mean, I played with him on 2K (video game), against him, slam dunking and stuff, and now I got to guard him. It’s just surreal. It’s a blessing, for real.”
Langford, who impressed off the bench, admitted that he tried to “play it cool,” but in reality playing against the No. 5 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft made the game a bit more fun.
“I never thought I would be playing against Vince Carter, especially at my age and his age,” Langford said.
Tatum made a similar age-related joke when asked about what it meant to receive Carter’s last TD Garden-worn uniform.
“That’s special,” Tatum said. “He’s been in the NBA for 22 years. I’m only 21.”
Stevens spoke about Carter on a much deeper level. The Celtics coach discussed how impressed he was that Carter, now in his second campaign with the Hawks, was able to transition as a mentor after being a high-flying star in the NBA for so many years.
“That’s a testament to who he is, that he’s willing to do that,” Stevens said. “Obviously, he’s great at it because everybody just kept re-signing him until he decided he wanted to be done.
“Kudos to him on a great career,” Stevens said. “And I’ll remember just as fondly this smooth transition to a leader as well as some of the dunks early on in his career.”
Thumbnail photo via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images